New coronavirus strategy must provide clarity and hope for hospitality sector, says SLTA


THE Scottish Licensed Trade Association has raised concerns that the Scottish Government’s proposed five-level framework approach to suppressing coronavirus outbreaks across Scotland has been rushed through without proper consultation with the hospitality industry.

While welcoming the fact that the Scottish Government is prepared to engage with stakeholders – including the hospitality industry – ahead of making final decisions on exactly how the refreshed strategy will look, the SLTA said it would be asking to see the evidence behind the proposals presented by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said that the proposed framework replacing the recent series of sudden announcements often made at very short notice would go some way towards helping businesses plan ahead. However, he warned that this longer-term blueprint must be properly implemented and “crystal clear” in its guidance for the hospitality industry.

“In recent months we’ve experienced a raft of ambiguous rules and regulations that are both confusing and difficult to put in place because of the short notice and lack of detail available at the time of implementation,” he said. “While we will have the opportunity to present our views prior to a final version of the strategic framework being debated and voted on in Parliament tomorrow, this is still very short notice.

“It is imperative that the Scottish Government gets it right first time to give hospitality businesses a fighting chance.”

Last week, the SLTA and four other hospitality groups – the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association Scotland – took steps to begin legal action against the Scottish Government for restrictions they say have targeted the industry with no sound evidence.

The groups have been advised by a legal expert that there is a case for a Judicial Review amid fears by their members that the continuation of restrictions in the central belt and the forthcoming tier system could lead to the closure of many businesses. A joint letter has been delivered to the Scottish Government with a deadline for a response set for 4pm on October 28.

Mr Wilkinson added: “We are obviously very keen to work with the Scottish Government to reach solutions that can manage the pandemic while having minimum impact on the hospitality industry and the wider economy.

“That is why it is absolutely crucial that these new guidelines are crystal clear, concise and unambiguous – there must be no room for error.

“Crucially, there must be sufficient financial support in place to help hardworking businesses survive and retain staff – owners, managers and their staff must not be allowed to fall through the cracks of Government policy.

“Scotland’s licensed trade and other hospitality businesses have suffered enough, both financially and from a wellbeing point of view – this refreshed strategy must provide clarity and hope.”

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